The First Fuck

I’m a couple of days into my new job. My boss heard her first ‘fuck’ today. I think she’d had the impression that I was one of the 90% of people with Tourettes who don’t swear. That illusion is now broken.

“Fucking, fucking, fucking, Ginger Rogers.”

“To me, to me, to me, to you, to you, fuck off.”

“The first fuck is the deepest.”

I work for an organisation in South London that runs projects for children and young people. My role is a mixture of fundraising and project development. I’ve worked with children for years, although my previous jobs have always been at inclusive or specialised settings. This is the first time I’ve ever worked for an organisation that doesn’t focus specifically on services for disabled children.

While I’m rambling on about my employment history, you might still be thinking about the fucking I mentioned earlier and wondering how anyone who swears involuntarily like that can possibly work with children.

I think the key issue with all swearing is the intention behind it, but my swearing is completely involuntary and when I tic ‘fuck’ it has no more meaning than when I tic ‘fish’. I feel that children who are old enough to recognise a swearword or ask what it means are also old enough to understand that I’ve not chosen to swear, and that it isn’t ok for them to swear, particularly if it is aimed at someone else.

There might be people who would argue that exposing children to bad language is not appropriate because it might confuse them or encourage them to repeat certain words. I completely disagree with this and argue that it’s entirely appropriate for children to be in environments where difference is accepted, understood and supported, even if that means putting up with the odd expletive.

The fact is, any swearword that comes out happens in a context where I’m making a range of unusual noises and movements, so it becomes something that everyone is familiar with.

My Tourettes has increased in intensity since I started working with children. Had it been as noticeable when I started, I think it would’ve been much more difficult for me to develop the confidence and skills needed to do work like this. I’ve been incredibly well supported and my colleagues have always shared the humour that tics can bring.

Although I think there are ways for people with Tourettes to overcome most employment challenges and do jobs some people might think are not compatible with the condition (for example there’s a surgeon with Tourettes), there are some career paths that I wouldn’t pursue, especially those which involve stillness, silence or secrecy. I might find being a living-statue, sound-recordist or spy too much of a challenge. However, being a superhero is well within my capability.

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